August 23

23 August – ‘All Over The Place – Europe, Part 2’

A couple of years back I went to see a 3D film about the Chauvet caves, which were discovered in the mid 1990s and contain Europe’s oldest cave paintings – a mind blowing 36,000 years old. So I was pretty excited to find out that I’d be visiting them today. Well, kind of.

To protect the paintings the cave has now been sealed up, and a huge replica cave built nearby in a 55 million Euro complex. We got there nice and early before any of the public were due to come in and did a lightening tour giving this artistic treasure the respect it deserved by playing “cave painting bingo”. But we still had time to marvel at just how well they’d managed to recreate the cave, from stalagmites to tiny stones and animal bones. Despite the fact that you’re looking at a recreation it still triggers an immense respect for what our ancestors managed to achieve. The paintings are by no means primitive. Not many people I know could paint that well, and they even managed to capture some of the animals in perspective, their heads turned outwards to centre both their beady eyes on you.

Managed to get the rest of our filming done in the woods outside, despite us all getting a bit of a shock to the system as the lovely Southern French weather evaporated and we found ourselves shivering in the rain. Then it was off to meet Herve the nougat man.

Montelimar is known as the home of nougat, but in 1983 Herve wasn’t even aware the place existed. He was bored with his life in Paris, so he rolled out a map, closed his eyes and stuck a pin in it telling himself he would move to wherever it landed. Expecting Hawaii or Australia he was slightly underwhelmed to see he’d accidentally chosen somewhere in France, but he stuck to his guns and ended up buying an old nougat factory in the town. He’s still going strong, with all the old equipment still operating, and he seemed to enjoy showing Ben and I the ropes, even though I spent half the time dressed as a shouty French food critic. By the time we were done he invited us all up to his pad on top of the factory for aperitif, and relaxing on his balcony I felt that he should feel very lucky indeed that his pin landed where it did.

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